Jesus Really is the Reason… for Everything! – Colossians 1:15-20 06/21/20

Jesus Really is the Reason… for Everything! – Colossians 1:15-20 06/21/20

So far we’ve seen that the overarching theme of the letter to the Colossians is the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Because of His supreme position, both in all of creation, but even more significantly for the Christian, we’re called upon obey His will, which is that we live lives worthy of Him. As we do so, we learned that we’ve been, already done and complete, moved out from under the reign of Satan and are now citizens of the kingdom of God. Next, having considered the new kingdom that we’re a part of, we now consider the nature of our King.

The letter to the Colossians provides a look at the person of Jesus not found with this level of detail anywhere else in the Scriptures.[1] Jesus is described in Colossians 1:15-20, and this passage is well worth the time to stop and read right now. With very little thought we quickly come to understand that the Person of Jesus is greater, more glorious, and more astounding, than we’ll ever understand while still in this life.[2] Jesus, the Child born to Mary, is God[3] and Savior. It is this fact that was being attacked through the heresy spreading through the church in Colossi.[4] Jesus was reduced to one spirit among many who bridged the gap between God and man.[5]

This remarkable statement of faith opens with a description of Jesus in Colossians 1:15. How can Jesus be “the image” of the invisible God? Isn’t that a logical contradiction in terms? We have to recognize that Paul isn’t speaking on a material or physical level.[6] To say that Christ is the image of God is to say that, in Him, the nature and being of God are perfectly revealed.[7] The true meaning of what Paul wrote was deeper than the physical.[8] This word “image,” (εἰκών),[9] can be used to express two separate concepts.[10] The first conveys the idea of an exact likeness, such as the image of Caesar on the national coinage.[11] The second meaning is in the sense of perfectly revealing the nature and being.[12] As Jesus reveals what the Father is like, Paul is able to say we can have the knowledge of God. As God, Jesus in the flesh was able to show us what the invisible God is like.[13]

But Jesus is further described in the passage, and this has created some problems. This expression “firstborn” (πρωτότοκος)[14] can be easily misinterpreted. This term was most commonly applied in the literal sense of the first-fruits of a (human or animal) mother’s womb.[15] But there’s a different sense possible; “existing before,” and in this case “existing before anything was created.” [16] This passage doesn’t point to Jesus coming into beginning before anything else, as though Jesus was the first created being in creation.[17] It points to His preexistence before anything was created.

However, there is a third meaning which applies here, “supremacy in rank.”[18] This passage emphasizes that the Son is the One through whom all things came into being.[19] He preexisted all things because He is the eternal Creator of everything, both in heaven and earth.[20] As used here, the point is not that Christ is the first creature, it brings out that Christ’s holds supremacy over creation… as its mediator.[21] Jesus Christ is over all things in every way.[22]

In Christ, creation and redemption have the same source.[23] Colossians, however, looks past the creation of the physical world and gives us just a glimpse of the spirit world;[24] Colossians 1:16. The phrase, “in Him” seems to serve to mark Christ as the sphere within which the work of creation took place.[25] In fact, there are three prepositional phrases that serve to define the creative work of the Son;[26] all things came to be “in” Him, all things came to be “through” Him, and all things came to be “for” Him.[27] The entire existence of the universe is dependent on the work of Christ bringing it about.[28]

Next, we’re reminded that He was before all of these things, and that they continue exist simply because He maintains everything;[29] Colossians 1:17. This serves to sum up what Paul has just stated in verses 15 and 16.[30] Not only does everything exist for His purposes, they continue to exist because it is His purpose that they should.[31] He sustains all things, and without that there would be no “things” at all.[32]

But something interesting now comes into view in Colossians 1:18. This is the key to the entire epistle, Jesus is the Head of the Church.[33] The Church is something new, something that had not been seen before, we who follow Jesus are considered a part of His own body, we are spiritually joined to Him, and He is the guiding force behind its existence. I think the Church may be a bigger deal than we understand. It’s a living organism held together by Jesus in exactly the same way the rest of creation is held together by Him for His purposes.[34] Christ and His people are seen as a living entity.[35] We function in the various ways ordained by Him, obeying His direction, performing His work.[36]

Some have expressed concern that the Church will die out, that we’ll be persecuted into oblivion. Let me tell you something; that will happen just as soon as the Head can be killed. He is on the throne, and the Lord Jesus Christ will prevail, His will must be accomplished.[37] That can be stopped just as soon as you figure out how to stop the purposes of God. Good luck with that.

Next, we begin to see how all of this plays into Jesus’ role as Savior; Colossians 1:19. This word, “fullness” (πλήρωμα)[38] is one of the most important words in the epistle.[39] It’s probably used here to refute the heresy being taught in Colossi.[40] We can infer that it was an expression used by the false teachers and was probably used in the context of the hierarchy of beings that stood, according to their philosophy, between us and God.[41] In one sentence Paul blows that out of the water and makes all the supposed beings unnecessary.[42] Jesus is the end game. The completeness of God’s self-revelation is focused in Christ and the sum of all God’s interaction with the universe is summed up in Jesus.[43] He is the one all-sufficient intermediary between God and the world of humanity.[44]

Then, finally, all of this is linked to our salvations; Colossians 1:20. It is because Jesus is who He is that it was possible for Him to address the problem of sin. Only as God the Son could the full burden of our sin be taken upon Himself. In fact it is only possible to be forgiven because the penalty for what we’ve done is already paid.[45] Just as the Son is the source and sustainer of all things, so is He the One who will ultimately restore creation to what He intended for it to be. Even His creation will ultimately be delivered and restored.[46]

There are two things that should come out of this information. First, we need to rethink our response to this Person who died for our sin. He is the holy God of creation, He is glorious and majestic and righteous, even as He is loving and merciful. He is much more than I think we tend to think. He is worthy of our service.

Secondly, I think that, in light of current events, this passage has special application for us today. Are you afraid of the direction the world is taking? Are you afraid of what the future may hold? These feelings are only appropriate if you don’t actually believe what our passage says; Colossians 1:15-20. If this passage is true, then we may not “like” what’s happening, but we need not fear it. We can choose to trust in the One who created, sustains, and rules over all things.

[1] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 338. [2] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 338. [3] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 338. [4] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 180. [5] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 181. [6] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 181. [7] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids MI.: 1984), 57. [8] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 181. [9]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Col 1:15. [10] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 181. [11] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 181. [12] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 182. [13] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 338. [14]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Col 1:15. [15] Ceslas Spicq and James D. Ernest, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 210. [16] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 157. [17] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 338. [18] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 182. [19] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids MI.: 1984), 59. [20] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids MI.: 1984), 59. [21] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 968. [22] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 182. [23] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 93. [24] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 339. [25] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids MI.: 1984), 61. [26] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 182. [27] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 182. [28] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 182. [29] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 340. [30] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 182-183. [31] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 340. [32] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 183. [33] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 340. [34] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 183. [35] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids MI.: 1984), 68. [36] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids MI.: 1984), 68. [37] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 341. [38]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Col 1:19. [39] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 341. [40] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids MI.: 1984), 72. [41] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 185. [42] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 185. [43] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 101. [44] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids MI.: 1984), 74. [45] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 341. [46] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids MI.: 1984), 74.

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